School Bus Inspections: How Districts Prepare for First Day Of School

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Most kids will be arriving to their first day of class on school buses. It’s constant work to keep the buses maintained and ready for the first day on September 3.

There are actually more than a few sets of eyes inspecting your child’s bus.

Mechanics do the initial inspection and repairs, and Michigan State Police inspectors give the final go-ahead. This year, MSP has been working with bus contractors like Dean Transportation to streamline the inspection process.

“The state of Michigan still has probably one of the best inspection processes in the nation,” said Patrick Dean of Dean Transportation. “It’s been held as a model for other states to look at.”

In its most recent report, which can be found online, MSP inspectors categorize buses as red, yellow, or green. Red-tagged buses need to be fixed immediately, yellow-tagged buses are still safe for the road but the issue must be fixed within 60 days, and green buses are passed.

Buses are inspected on a cycle from September 1 to August 31.

Out of 78 buses MSP inspected in the Grand Rapids city school system, 10 were tagged red and two flagged yellow. According to Lt. Steve Horwood, those red tags ranged from just a broom that needed to be secured to an engine leak. There was also a report of a defective head or tail light, an emergency door that needed to be fixed on one of the buses, and a hole likely from rust, that needed to be patched on the undercarriage of another bus.

Of of 37 buses inspected in Muskegon Public Schools, seven were red-tagged. Most of the problems were for brake valve repairs, something mechanics say is pretty common.

“The city ones, you’re going to go through brakes more often, because you’re stopping and starting so frequently,” said mechanic Dan Zuidema.

Another bus was red-tagged for a deficient parking brake, and another needed a seat repaired.

In Kalamazoo Public Schools, all 108 buses passed.

Michigan State Police admits the red tag system can give a false perception to parents that their child’s bus is not safe to ride. But, they add, it’s the best way to categorize buses. Inspectors are working on putting all the results online so parents can actually see finalized inspection reports.

MSP hopes to debut the new mobile app next school year.

As always, drivers are reminded to look out for children at bus stops and to obey all lights and signs when flashing on buses and in school zones.

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